Lessons in Hand Washing

The hardest part about going away is not the concerns about what you may face but the people you leave behind. It’s funny how that has changed over the years. I remember the first time I headed away without my parents, I didn’t give them much thought (sorry mum and dad). I was off on an adventure, my focus was all about what lay ahead rather than what was behind.

Having a family of my own changes things considerably. Before the Christmas holidays I was walking my kids to school when the eldest asked about my trip to Zimbabwe. We talked about it a little and they said they would miss me. As we chatted they were looking forward to Christmas and opening daily the advent calendar, the count down to Christmas. The idea emerged of a Dadvent Calendar; a count down to of the days I am away until I’m home again. So, with a little treat each day, a lot of hugs and a few tears I headed off.

Airports are funny places. People coming and going. Heading away, heading home. (I’m sure there is some wisdom that will become a sermon or a theological reflection around the idea of being able to be heading both home and away whilst travelling in the same direction). Most people are herded through the systems of check-in, security, departure lounge, boarding gate and plane. Some get the luxury of a fast route, a business lounge and business class seating, most squeeze into economy class. We all, however, get to fly to far away places in a matter of hours, a privilege and luxury of being alive and within the right circles of society.

I find myself heading to a country in economic crisis with fuel shortages and doctors on strike. A country that once supplied goods to others now in debt and needing the support and good will of others. I am uncomfortable at the knowledge that I will fly in, tour around, visit churches, social action projects, and a university. I will meet people who live on very little, less than I can really fathom and then I will return to a hotel, travelling by a coach and without a concern for where my next meal comes from.

As I washed my hands in the airport part of me wanted to laugh and another cry. There was a fancy Dyson tap that enabled the user to get water and soap without touching anything. Built in was a dryer so the user didn’t have to move or touch anything to have clean hands. The system was so over engineered and different from normal it also requires a built in flat screen playing a video infront of each sink to show people how to wash their hands. You know you live in a land of plenty (regardless of how much most people reading this have) when it takes this much to do the daily activity of hand washing.

As I travel I am more than aware of my privilege as a white male with a British passport. I hope I learn some lessons and meet some people that will allow me to make a difference. I hope I am able to use my undeserved privilege for something worthwhile for others.

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